Judge slashes bond for man linked to alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer by 99%

A Jackson County judge on Friday slashed a $10 million bond to $100,000 for a Munith man accused in a plot to storm Michigan’s Capitol, harm government officials and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Defense attorney Kareem Johnson argued on Friday that 42-year-old Pete Musico’s be lowered, noting Musico was kicked out of a militia group alleged to be involved because “he was too soft and wouldn’t commit to violence.”

“Clearly, him being kicked out of the group for not being violent enough, the absence of activity from July to October establishes for pre-trial purposes that he is not a danger to the community,” Johnson said.

Musico and Joseph Morrison, who are said to be founding members of the “anti-government, anti-law enforcement” Wolverine Watchmen, are among eight co-defendants being accused by the state of plotting to ignite a “civil war.” Six others, including accused ring leader Adam Fox, 37, of Potterville, face more serious charges in federal court in Grand Rapids for their alleged roles.

The cases have focused attention on anti-government extremism in Michigan amid fallout from lockdown orders aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. Members of the alleged conspiracy voiced displeasure with the lockdown, some protested at the Capitol and discussed “taking out” another state leader, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend argued Friday that Musico had come up with his own plan, unhappy with Fox’s plan to storm the Capitol dubbed “Plan A.”

“He was concerned about an assault on the Capitol and considered it a fishbowl, which could be dangerous (for members). His plan was to find addresses of various politicians and kidnap them,” Townsend said. “There are also earlier discussions on the attempts to kidnap the governor of the state of Michigan. These tactical trainings were for a purpose of an assault.”

Townsend described the militia as a “type of terrorist” group “that was committed to violence before the election,” which also had contact with other similar groups in Ohio and Wisconsin. The defense objected to “terrorist” terminology not defined by the state department.

The Wolverine Watchmen had also attended an armed political protest at the Capitol on April 30 “for surveillance,” Townsend argued.

This photo provided by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office shows Pete Musico.

Musico and Morrison, who live together in Munith, are both co-defendants and charged with one count each of threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; one count each of gang membership, a 20-year felony that may be served as a consecutive sentence; one count each of providing material support for terrorist acts; and one count each of felony firearm, which carries a two-year mandatory prison sentence.

The two both appeared in court together; however, Morrison’s bond review was postponed to Nov. 2 for attorneys to file additional paperwork in his case.

Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico, two of seven men charged under the state’s anti-terrorism law appeared virtually with the district court for their probable cause conference.

Johnson said “Musico is a family man with extensive ties to the community.” He is a father of two, grandfather, has a wife of 22 years, and is an active member of his local church, Johnson said. Musico moved to Michigan from Alabama in 2010.

In the past, Musico worked for an RV center, and for the past five years, worked as a chimney sweeper and gas service technician.

Jackson County Judge Michael Klaeren on Friday said “a $10 million bond is woefully excessive” for Musico, noting he’s spent the last “20 years as a law-abiding citizen.” Klaeren should Musico be released on bond, he must wear a GPS tether.

“Mr. Musico is under such a microscope that he would have to be absolutely nuts not to travel the straight and narrow” if released on bond, Klaeren said. “This is not a murder case or a kidnapping case. I understand it’s none of those because you caught it in time, but I have to look primarily at the charges involved.”

Morrison, 26, was a lance corporal and served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2015 until the day he was arraigned on state charges earlier this month. The Marine Corps said his departure from the reserves is “unrelated to (his) current situation.”

Morrison’s last assignment was with the 4th Marine Logistics Group in Battle Creek.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_